how do prison inmate calls work

How Do Prison Inmate Calls Work


We’ve all seen it in the movies – an inmate in a jail cell making a phone call, usually to a lawyer or a loved one. But how does this system really work? Well, the process is a bit more complex than you might think.

The Necessity of Prison Inmate Calls

Connecting Families

First, it’s essential to understand that communication is critical for inmates. Staying in touch with the outside world, especially family and friends, can help maintain morale and support reintegration into society after their sentence.

Legal Representation Communication

Moreover, these calls are often a lifeline for legal consultations. An inmate has the right to private conversations with their attorney, which is crucial to their legal representation.

The Procedure of Making a Prison Call

The Inmate Phone System

The typical procedure of making a prison call begins with the inmate. Most prisons use a specific phone system that allows inmates to call approved numbers only.

Prison Call Restrictions

These systems have restrictions – calls are monitored, recorded, and limited in duration. Also, inmates can only make outbound calls; they cannot receive incoming calls.

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Cost of Prison Calls

Who Bears the Cost?

One key aspect of prison calls is their cost. These calls are usually collect calls, meaning the receiving party bears the cost.

Cost Variations

However, the cost can vary significantly depending on the location and the service provider, leading to high phone bills for inmates’ families or their legal representatives.

Prison Call Services

Third-Party Services

To mitigate these costs, third-party services like Securus Technologies and Global Tel Link provide specialized call services for prisons.

Local and Long-Distance Calls

These services often differentiate between local and long-distance calls, each with different pricing structures.

Overcoming the Challenges of Prison Calls

The Role of FCC

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stepped in in recent years to regulate the costs of these calls, ensuring they’re fair and reasonable.

The Future of Prison Calls

Moreover, with advancements in technology, prisons may soon adopt more cost-effective and accessible communication methods, like video calling and email services.


Understanding how prison inmate calls work helps us comprehend the challenges faced by inmates and their families. While the system has its constraints, steps are being taken to make it more affordable and accessible, ensuring inmates stay connected with their loved ones and legal representation.


  1. Can inmates make free phone calls? No, inmates typically can’t make free phone calls. The calls are usually collect calls paid for by the receiving party.
  2. Are all inmate calls recorded? Yes, typically all inmate calls are recorded and monitored, except those to their legal counsel.
  3. Can an inmate receive incoming calls? No, inmates cannot receive incoming calls. They can only make outbound calls to approved numbers.
  4. How long can an inmate call last? The duration of an inmate call can vary by institution but is typically limited to 15-30 minutes.
  5. What is the role of the FCC in regulating prison calls? The FCC regulates the costs of interstate prison calls to ensure they’re fair and reasonable.
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